ON Tuesday night, when Treasurer Wayne Swan got to his feet to deliver his first Federal Budget, it was about two minutes in when my mobile phone beeped with a text message.
It was from Channel Seven newsreader Chris Bath. Her first text read: "Working families two so far hope you are counting''. That was followed by: "It's a bonanza eight and rising''.
This was a side bet Chris and I had about the use of the term working families by the Treasurer and his Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The term had become nauseating by the time Swan finished and, by my count, he rounded the night out at 10 working families - three short of Chris' estimate of 13.
If Chris and I were amused by our own little game, what wasn't funny on Tuesday night was the lack of another word in the Budget speech, a word most watching were hanging out to hear.
That word was "pensioner'' and, unless I am mistaken, the word pensioner wasn't uttered by Mr Swan.
Again Australia's pensioners - who were, I am sure, the majority of the audience watching the Budget speech - were ignored.
Australia is swimming in money, with surpluses so large we can park $20 billion in the bank in a building fund to finance un-named, un-funded, infrastructure projects that might never be built.
Another $11 billion is sitting in a back room for unannounced education spending while another $10 billion is set aside for health and hospitals. This is all on top of the existing future fund that is bursting at the seams with cash.
A new $41 billion - proceeds of the mining boom - and yet we can't scrape together one dollar to ease the burden of aged pensioners living on $273 a week.
Not only can't we offer them a meaningful pension increase, the incoming Labor government, who hold themselves out to be the government of the people, the party of kind, caring politicians replacing the hard nuts of the Howard era, don't even have the common sense to offer hope to the 670,000 older Australians living at or below the poverty line.
Prime Minister Rudd nearly choked when I asked my first question of him in a 10-minute interview the day after the Budget. I just wanted to know what was in it for the pensioners.
He mumbled about the $500 lump sum pensioner's bonus, a payment that doesn't appear in any forward calculations because it's again a one-off bribe, nothing more.
A practice he criticised John Howard over.
Then there is the utilities allowance, up from $107 to $500, a matched promise made during the election campaign. There are a few other bits and pieces but that was it. And it didn't take long for the senior citizens of this country to start making a noise.
I sense the pensioner's revolution is coming and there is growing movement of proud older Australians, who know how to fight, coming over a hill near you.
Emails are flooding talkback shows like mine. The letters pages of the newspapers are being hijacked and pensioners are starting to take to the streets, as we saw in Melbourne last week.
A 24-year-old Newcastle University student, Caitlin Read, sent me a copy of a letter she wrote to Kevin Rudd. She accuses him of ignoring the "working families'' of the past and thereby robbing older Australians of the joy of spoiling their own grandchildren.
She has a petition going on the go-petition website.
Then there was Glen Jameson, who made the point the pension is not a hand-out, it's a commitment we made and a promise that must be honoured. He says old people are our memory and the foundations of our future.
Another put it this way - pensioners, like old machinery, are chucked out on the national scrap heap.
But what really touched me, in a week when people were bleating about the cost of luxury cars going up by a few thousand dollars, was the call from woman in northern NSW. Three years ago a botched dental plate for her lower teeth meant that she turned herself into a hermit.
She told me she had not been out socially with anyone but dearest friends because of embarrassment.
A visit to the Commonwealth dental scheme last week saw her dentist tell her that she would now have to apply for a voucher to have that plate fixed.
He told her it would take somewhere between 12 months and four years.
I played that call to Premier Morris Iemma last week and it took him 10 seconds to promise to have it fixed.
Maybe modern Labor still does have a heart but what they need in Canberra is an urgent change of heart - because the pensioners are coming and they know how to be heard.
Steve Price is on 2UE 9am to noon, Monday to Friday.
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.
THE Rudd Government is under increasing pressure to provide a better deal for pensioners as a new opinion poll found Wayne Swan's first budget had been badly received by older voters.
The Government faces a backlash after failing to deliver a pay rise to pensioners in last week's budget despite handing down a better-than-expected surplus of $21.7billion.
A Galaxy poll published today in Sydney's Daily Telegraph and other News Limited metropolitan papers reveals that only 15 per cent of voters over 50 think they are better off after the budget while 41per cent think they are worse off.
National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O'Neill said vulnerable seniors had been pushed to "boiling point".
"When you've had so many cost pressures on people across the board, they simply cannot afford to wait any longer," Mr O'Neill said. Pensioners stripped to their underwear in Melbourne on Friday, to protest against the Government's inaction.
The Treasurer agreed yesterday to review the issue, but said it would take time to resolve.
"There's something like $900 (per head) additional in this budget for pensioners and for seniors, but I accept that many of them are doing it really tough, and that we do have to look at the underlying issues here," Mr Swan told the Ten Network. "We will look at these issues responsibly and we will do it properly."
The Government has yet to indicate when changes may be made, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has suggested it might have to wait until after the review of Australia's tax system is completed at the end of next year.
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson moved to clarify the Coalition's position yesterday. On Friday, Opposition spokeswoman for ageing Margaret May said she supported a pension increase but Treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition had no such policy.
"There is a very strong argument for raising the base rate of the pension," Dr Nelson told ABC television.
"I am very strongly of the view that it is time for us now to further strengthen the financial position of Australian pensioners and we are in the process of developing policy at the moment."
But he said the coalition had not committed to increasing the pension.
"I can assure you that we will release that policy once it has been fully concluded," Dr Nelson said.
A spokesman for Dr Nelson said he could not give any indication as to when that policy would be ready for release.
He did not support calls for stop-gap measures to be introduced until formal policy is announced.